Some tough talk from a future Democratic presidential contender.

CHENEY AND WMDS: It’s the vice-president who’s been most active in preventing any real investigation of the intelligence discussions before the war. Update from Mike Crowley:

[Harry] Reid also made it clear that he believes the delay in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of prewar Iraq WMD–the underlying issue behind Tuesday’s closed session–is entirely attributable to Vice President Dick Cheney. “Nothing happens regarding intelligence gathering … unless it’s signed off on by the Vice President,” he said. “[Senate Intelligence chairman Pat] Roberts couldn’t do it”–i.e., Roberts couldn’t conduct a full investigation without Cheney’s approval. When I asked Reid whether he meant to state so flatly that Cheney was personally and directly stalling the Intelligence Committee’s work, he didn’t pause a beat. In fact he almost stood from his chair. “Yes. I say that without any qualification … Circle it.”

Many already have. Meanwhile, there’s more evidence that some pre-war WMD intelligence that might have undercut the administration was ignored or sidelined:

A high Qaeda official in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Al Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to newly declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document

Worth emphasizing here: this is not necessarily evidence of deception. It fits into a pattern of insufficient skepticism in advance of the war. The consensus was so great and the risk so dangerous after 9/11 that debunking Saddam’s claims was not on the agenda as much as, in retrospect, it should have been. It sure wasn’t on mine; and I regret it. But then, I didn’t have access to all the classified data, and the Bush people did. It’s clear now at least that we could have done with a bit more “conservatism of doubt” in the run-up to the war.


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